ASHEBORO — Former Mayor David Jarrell was full of “whys?” as the keynote speaker for the ceremonial groundbreaking of the Center City Garden on Saturday.
He noted to a large crowd gathered for the event on Cox Street that the approximately three acres had been zoned for apartments. “I just couldn’t visualize it as apartments,” he said.
Jarrell wondered why the developer didn’t build on the property. Why, he asked, did a prominent citizen call him about the site. “I’m not a developer or in the real estate business. Maybe it was because I was the mayor and the city could have use for it,” he wondered. “When I was mayor, one of my primary motivations was revitalization of downtown. That continues today with the current mayor and City Council.
“This beautiful space has a lot of interest to all the citizens of Asheboro and other people who visit us,” said Jarrell. “It’s going to be a great asset to the city.”
Jarrell said he talked to his wife and daughter about what to do with the property. “We thought it could be put to good use as a small park or arboretum. So we donated it to the city with that stipulation. They wholeheartedly agreed.
“But it couldn’t have been a better site from a commercial standpoint,” Jarrell said. “Why didn’t the developer put it back on the market? Maybe, just maybe, God had his hand on this project from the beginning. I think He said, ‘This should be preserved so it could be enjoyed by the present and future generations.’
“Our family is so thankful that we can join with you in being a part of this great endeavor,” he said. “We thank y’all so much. To God be the glory.”
The location of the David and Pauline Jarrell Center City Garden is bordered by Worth, Cox, Academy and Main streets. It was once part of the farm of Jonathan Worth — lawyer, businessman and governor of North Carolina during Reconstruction. It was often referred to during earlier years as the “Lawn of Asheboro.”
Jennifer Wagner of Prospect Landscape Architecture had briefed the Asheboro City Council on the project on Feb. 24. She noted that the garden’s location is historical, having been on farms owned by early residents of Asheboro, including Worth.
With designs still in the planning stages at that time, Wagner said possibilities included use of an existing house as a visitor center, an heirloom garden, a boardwalk over a wetland garden, a formal garden, a flowering shrub garden and meadow, and a woodland walk.
Wagner said that citizens at a workshop voted on what they would like the Center City Garden to be. Receiving the most votes was "nature in the heart of the city."
Wagner described the sloping site as having open areas, a wetland, and the existing house with room for parking. She said there will likely be places to sit, a gazebo, nature areas, and designed according to the American Disabilities Act (ADA).
She said it would be developed as a local attraction, nature in the heart of the city, an outdoor classroom, open space, a possible draw for tourists, a community asset containing state and local history, and an event venue.
Those attending the groundbreaking were invited to take tours of the property and help identify invasive plants to be tagged for removal.
Actual development of the park should begin later this year.